Need More Miles? Here Are 3 Tips to Getting Your Next Award When Your Account Is Just Short!
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Miles & points are only valuable when you can redeem them. And if you’re in this hobby long enough, you’re likely to run into a situation where you don’t have enough miles or points for your next award.
Having 24,000 miles orphaned in an account when you need 25,000 miles for the next award is frustrating. But that doesn’t mean you need to change course and redeem those miles for something less valuable to you. Because there are lots of ways to collect the miles & points you want for Big Travel with Small Money!
Million Mile Secret Agent Safuvan asked:
I live in England and need advice on getting 2,000 American Airlines Miles. Since I’m abroad, it is hard to earn miles.
I have a Citi Bronze American Airlines card. But spending $4,000 on this card to get 2,000 American Airlines miles (it only earns 1 American Airlines mile per $2 spent) is not a great option (due to 3% foreign transaction fee – I’ll spend $120 in fees).
I need 2,000 American Airlines miles for my next award. I do spend money on online purchases, if there is any way to get American Airlines miles from online shopping.
I believe lots of miles & points enthusiasts find themselves in a similar situation from time to time. So thanks for the question, Safuvan!
Depending on how soon you need the extra 2,000 American Airlines miles, you’ve got no shortage of options for earning them! And you should be able to do it for less than the $120 in fees you’d pay for using your Citi Bronze American Airlines card on foreign transactions.
How to Earn Extra American Airlines Miles
For most folks, the best way to earn the extra miles & points you need is with a big credit card bonus! But because Safuvan is overseas, he’ll have fewer options when it comes to applying for credit cards.
So let’s take a look at other options for getting those last few miles you need to top up your account.
1. Transfer Them From a Partner Program
Starwood points transfer to American Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. And if you’re planning for your next award, for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer you’ll get 5,000 bonus miles!
If you don’t have any Starwood points, you can convert AMEX Membership Rewards points into Starwood points at a 3:1 ratio. This usually isn’t the best deal, but if you’re only making a small transfer to top off your account it can make sense.
And because of the Marriott-Starwood merger, you can transfer Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio to Starwood. This also allows you to indirectly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Starwood (through Marriott) as well!
If you’re fresh out of Starwood points and don’t have any points that convert into Starwood points, you can transfer certain hotel points into airline miles.
Again, this typically is NOT a good deal. For example, you can exchange 10,000 Hilton points for only 1,500 American Airlines miles. But if you’re desperate, it can be a cheap and easy way to get those last few miles.
2. Purchase or Transfer the Miles
One of the quickest ways to get the miles you need is to purchase them or to transfer them from another account (within the same loyalty program). But if you do this, you can pay fees that will really add up. For example, to purchase 2,000 American Airlines miles it costs ~$93!
If you can find a friend who has the same miles or points you need (and is generous), most programs allow you to transfer your miles or points to another account within the same loyalty program. Typically, this is a cheaper option than buying points. In this case, a 2,000 American Airlines mile transfer would only cost $40.
When you’re transferring hotel points between loyalty accounts with the same chain, it is generally cheap or even free. But most major US airlines charge for the privilege of moving your miles or points to a friend’s account with that airline.
Here is a handy chart with the fees major US airlines charge for miles & points purchases or transfers:
|Airline||Cost to Transfer Miles||Cost to Buy Miles||Other Conditions|
|Alaska Airlines||$10 per 1,000 miles + $25 per transaction||$27.50 per 1,000 miles + 7.5% tax||You can only transfer 100,000 miles per year & no limit on the amount of purchased miles|
|American Airlines||$12.50 per 1,000 miles + $15 per transaction & applicable taxes||$29.50 per 1,000 miles + $30 per transaction & taxes||You can transfer or receive through transfers a combined total of 200,000 miles in a year. You can purchase or receive as a gift a combined total of up to 150,000 miles per year|
|Delta||$10 per 1,000 miles + $30 per transaction||$70 per 2,000 miles + applicable taxes||You can purchase up to 60,000 miles per year. You can transfer up to 150,000 miles from your account each year. You can receive up to 300,000 miles into your account each year through transfers|
|JetBlue||$12.50 per 1,000 points (JetBlue offers free transfers to certain family members through their Family Pooling program)||~$37 per 1,000 points (taxes included). The price varies by the amount purchased, larger purchases cost less per point||You can purchase or receive as a gift up to 120,000 points per year. You can transfer or receive from transfers up to 60,000 points per year|
|Southwest||$5 per 500 points. |
Minimum transfer amount is 2,000 points
|~$13 to ~$15 per 500 points. Points can be purchased in 500 point increments with a minimum purchase of 2,000 points||You can purchase up to 60,000 points per day. You can also transfer up to 60,000 points per day|
|United Airlines||$7.50 per 500 miles + $30 per transaction||$35 per 1,000 miles + taxes. Minimum purchase of 2,000 miles||You can purchase up to 150,000 miles per year. You can transfer up to 100,000 miles per year|
3. Make Purchases With an Online Shopping Portal
Using shopping portals to earn bonus miles or cash back is a great way to earn extra rewards for the purchases you were making anyway.
And American Airlines has a shopping portal, which allows you to earn American Airlines miles at over 950 different stores. I typically check shopping portal search engines like Cashback Monitor or Evreward, to make sure I’m getting the best portal bonus before making a purchase.
But if you need a specific type of miles or points for an award, then I suggest going directly to that hotel, airline, or bank portal to do your shopping.
If you need your miles or points quickly, this might not be a good option. Because portal bonuses can take a month or more to post to your account!
The American Airlines shopping portal FAQ says:
The miles will typically be posted to your account within 4 weeks (30 days) of the purchase date; however, there are times when it may take up to 8 weeks. Some exceptions do apply. See participating retailer offer information on the AAdvantage eShopping mall for complete information.
When you need a few extra miles for an award, don’t give up! Because there are lots of easy and inexpensive ways to get those last few miles.
If that’s not an option and you need the miles right away, you can buy miles from the airline. Or transfer miles from a someone else’s account (within the same loyalty program).
And if you’re not in a rush to get the miles, you can earn bonus miles by doing your shopping through an online portal.
What’s your strategy for getting those last few miles into your account when you’re just short of your next award?
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)